Back in the saddle again

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Magnolia treesFor the past three weeks, my wife and I were living at the BC Children’s Hospital while one of my kids dealt with a serious infection. This, of course, made commuting by bike pretty impractical. Things are better now, and last Wednesday I got back on the bike to ride to work. I was expecting the worst — my commute includes climbing the hill to UBC — but it was pretty good.

I had driven to work a few times over those three weeks, and while in “motorist” mode I felt the same irritation that many motorists feel about cyclists. There was the cyclist riding down Broadway that vehicles were gingerly working their way around, only to have the cyclist ride up along the side of the line of vehicles stopped at stop lights and proceed to ride right through the red light. Everyone had to gingerly try to pass again.

There was the cyclist that was a cyclist until the red light, then became a pedestrian on a bike as she rode across the intersection in the crosswalk, then reaching the far corner, rode across the street against the red light and down the sidewalk.

There was the cyclist who didn’t even look for traffic, never mind stop at the 2-way stop sign. You know what? Cyclists like this ruin the reputation of all cyclists around the city.

It felt so good to get back in the saddle though. Riding is liberating: you go at your pace, you don’t have to deal with traffic congestion, you feel the wind in your hair and the ground beneath your wheels. You appreciate the things around you, and in Vancouver, there’s lots around to appreciate — like the magnolia trees in full bloom. I arrive at work refreshed, not frustrated. Well, not much. In “cyclist” mode, it’s the pedestrians and motorists that are annoying.

Data on cycling habits in Vancouver shows that there’s a large core group of cyclists that cycle year-round, despite the winter rain and darkness. Once the days start getting longer and the days drier, the “fairweather riders” emerge. Judging by the number of bikes now in the bike room at my workplace, this group has started riding again.

While there are some that grumble about them, I welcome these cyclists back to the streets. Just as I felt great returning to riding after a paltry three weeks off, I can just imagine how it feels after 4, 5, or 6 months off. The physical and mental health of city only improves as more people get on their bikes and ride.

So, this is my personal appeal to you: ride your bike more. If you can, ride your bike to work. Choose a nice warm, dry day and just go for it. You might be surprised how much better your day is.

Last modified: April 16, 2012

5 Responses to " Back in the saddle again "

  1. Ruth says:

    Just want to say I’m glad everything’s better now, and I hope the stay at BC Children’s went as well as these things ever can. And hurray for being back in the saddle, too.

  2. Mojo says:

    Welcome back Tony – the most annoying bikers are the ones that use the sidewalks. Get on the streets and claim it!

    One suggestion for a post. This morning I got hit by a driver on my bike going down 4th avenue. She passed me to park and when she pulled in she turned into to me. I managed to avoid getting under the car and only hit my elbow. This time. I gave here a talking to, but I realized that when I got home that there should be a protocol for what to do. So basically, everyone knows what to do when you have a fender bender with a fellow motorist, but what do you do when a biker gets hit by a car?

  3. Phil says:

    Great, glad to see you back and hear that all is well.
    I think you make a great point – cycling more, I think, helps cyclists appreciate and learn the best way to conduct themselves on the road via experience. I feel this is very much true for myself. I’ve learned to never ride on sidewalks, be more comfortable “taking the lane”, and properly navigate the fine line between “pedestrian” and “cyclist” in the various overlap contexts. Ultimately I feel it comes down to making clear, confident, visible choices to avoid collisions with the Elephants (cars) all cyclists have to share the urban environment with.

    Just as more fodder for a possible post (and something I think I will have to sit down and write about) I was in the Blenz on Granville & Broadway yesterday and witnessed an older cyclist, maybe in his 50’s, donning his gear to get ready to mount his bike after some espresso. The man had ear buds on. And he was in his 50’s. I thought this sad state of affairs only affected the youth, with their skull headphones, but I was reminded this was not the case. I almost breached the subject with him, but let it go. I think a cyclist’s most powerful tools to keeping themselves safe is their senses – and again, like you refer to in the article, there is certain cyclist behaviors that negatively effect cycling in general in the eyes of cars, and I think riding around with headphones on reinforces the idea most cyclists are rolling disasters waiting to happen.

  4. ex-Kitsie says:

    My pet peeve is the sidewalk cyclists – I live in the South Granville area and just plain don’t understand the fools who ride down Granville, on the sidewalks, to get to Granville Island and window-shop at the same time. The worst offenders seem to be on weekend afternoons when whole families careen down the sidewalks expecting everyone else to move. Thank you … rant over.

  5. Anthony says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    @mojo Glad to hear it wasn’t serious. That’s a good suggestion, and I’ll check into it. Thanks!

    @phil Thanks! The headphone debate. A good suggestion. Note quite the same holy war as helmets, but an interesting discussion. I’ll post on this soon.

    @ex-kitsie Yes. I suspect the reason for this is that going down Granville, or even Hemlock on the road is intimidating for many riders. Of course, they could go over to Fir, but I’m not sure how many people really think of that. Regardless, it doesn’t excuse riding on the sidewalk. I’m not sure how to combat that behaviour, though. It bugs me too, as this is also my neighbourhood, and when I’m out walking with my two young kids, there’s not much room on the sidewalk, their behaviour is somewhat unpredictable, and their reactions aren’t always rational.